A5 - Post World War II Schools (1946-1967)

Following the Second World War, the growth of the population of Lexington and Fayette County led to overcrowding of the existing schools.  During the 1950s, the county school experienced the bulk of this increase with the baby boom and the population growth.  However, during the 1960s, the City of Lexington expanded the city limits, north along Paris Pike, east along Richmond Road and south along Tates Creek Road, which led to increased enrollment from these areas.  In 1950, the city and county systems enrolled 5,900 and 6,100 pupils, respectively.  Within ten years, the “baby boom” led to increased enrollment of 8,300 and 13,000 students. 

 City Schools:

During 1949, Dr. W. T. Rowland died while in office.  Benjamin B. Herr, business manager, was again appointed acting superintendent while the school board conducted a search for a replacement.  Herr’s salary was $7,200 per annum.  In March 1951, John M. Ridgway was appointed as superintendent, after serving 20 years in various positions with the system.[i]

 In April 1952, the city school board approved plans of issuing $1,200,000 in bonds to finance the remodeling of existing schools and construction of new school.  The plans included remodeling Dunbar High School, Lexington Junior High School, Ashland Elementary School and Booker T. Washington Elementary School.  In addition, the school board built a new Russell Elementary School, adjacent to the old school, at the cost of $352.127.83.  The new school was designed for low maintenance cost, built of concrete and steel, with hollow tile walls, asphalt title floors and tile roof.  These materials were both fire proof and quickly cleaned.[ii]

In February 1952, the city school board approved a budget of $1,444,372.18 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1953.  The board also approved the increase of the maximum salary for teachers to $375 per month, from $362.50 per month.  The board also set the tax rate of $1.20 per $100 assessed value.[iii]

In July 1952, the city schools established a summer school camp at the reservoir, on Richmond Road, called Camp Ellerslie.  The board leased six acres from the water company and erected a shelter.  John W. Ambrose was the camp director.  The camp was also used during the regular term as an outdoor laboratory for field trips.  A separate camp, named Camp Molloy, was set up for black students.[iv]

During September 1952, both the city and county schools experienced increases in enrollment.  The city school reported total enrollment of 6,916 students, an increase of 460 over the prior year’s enrollment of 6,456.  The county schools reported total enrollment of 6,711 students, an increase of 550 over the prior year 6,161.[v]

By 1960, financial problems forced the city schools to suspend kindergarten classes, while also establishing temporary classrooms in several churches and Hamilton Hall (a former Transylvania girl’s dormitory).

During 1960 and 1961, the Lexington Board of Education approved operating budgets of $2,500,000 and $2,879,742, respectively, for the upcoming school years.  In 1960, the Lexington school board approved an $188,735 remodeling of the old Russell School, to be used an annex to Dunbar High School.  In 1961, Henry Clay High School was expanded with an elevated addition over the parking lot.  This addition cost $300,000.  In 1962, the budget for the city schools was $3,035,227.95.  For students from the county tuition of $80 was charged.  In addition, another $1,000,000 expansion program was started for the city schools.  In 1963, Breckinridge Elementary School was opened in the Idle Hour Subdivision.

In 1964, the budget for the city schools was $4,500,000.[vi]  In addition, based upon the population growth and increased enrollment, it was reported that both the city and county schools would exceed theirs enrollment capacity by 1968.  In was also reported that over the past few years, the schools had completed over 25 building projects.  However, this construction was not enough to meet projected enrollment.[vii]  In 1965, the Lexington City Schools opened Lansdowne Elementary School.

In July 1965, the city schools issued another bond issue of $700,000, for a classroom addition to Lexington Junior High School, a new administration building and a dining room to Carver Elementary School.  In 1966, the city schools increased the tax rate to $1.67, from $1.50, per $100 assessed value.  This was the first increase since the 1950s.[viii]

During July 1965, Conrad C. Ott replaced John M. Ridgway as superintendent.  Ott previously was the associate superintendent of the Jefferson County School system.


In 1954, the U. S. Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public education with the Brown vs. Board of Education decision.  However, the Kentucky Attorney General issued an opinion that until state segregation laws were ruled unconstitutional, segregation was still valid.

In early 1955, a cross was burned in the front yard of Superintendent Ridgway, after he made some remarks on desegregation of the city schools.[ix]  In June 1955, Helen Cary Caise[1], a 16-year old student from Douglas High School, enrolled in summer school at Lafayette High School.  Caise was the first black student to attend a white school in Fayette County.[x]

In November 1964, Carl I. Lynem[2] was elected to the Lexington Board of Education, the first black member of the school board.

In 1964, the Federal Civil Rights Act required the desegregation of all schools.  Over, the next year, both the county and city boards began working on desegregation plans.  The county schools accomplished this by closing Douglas School, then disturbing black pupils around other county schools.  Black students represented approximately 10 percent of total enrollment.

In July 1965, the Lexington Board of Education redistricted the city schools, with the closing of the Lincoln School and converting Dunbar into a junior high school.  The displaced students were transferred to neighborhood schools near the closed schools.  This plan prevented mass busing of students.  However, since the city’s housing was largely segregated at the time, this plan failed to meet Federal approval.  Black enrollment represented 40 percent of the city’s enrollment, with most living on the north side of the city.[xi]


            During May 1966, the Lexington Board of Education approved another redistricting and desegregation plan.  This plan had the approval of the Federal government.  The board retained “neighborhood schools” for elementary schools, with district lines rewritten slightly.  For the secondary (junior and senior high) schools, the city was divided into a northern and southern district.  The boundary line was drawn down the middle of West Main Street, north along Midland and eastward along Winchester Road. [xii]

Redistrict Map, May 1966   <LH>

In July 1966, the University of Kentucky’s Bureau of Schools presented the “School Facilities Survey” to the city board.  This reported indicated “Harrison, Lincoln and Maxwell (schools) are deficient on so many counts that they should be replaced as quickly as possible.”  The survey offered three alternatives, ranging in cost from $2.7 to $5.4 million.  These included closing Harrison, Lincoln and Maxwell Schools, renovating Carver, Washington, Russell and Ashland and building a new school around Douglas Park.[xiii]

In September 1966, the 7th grade at Dunbar was relocated to Lexington Junior High School, with a 6-2-4 plan instituted - Lexington Junior High and Durban High Schools serving the northern portions and Morton Junior High and Henry Clay High Schools serving the southern portions of the city.  Juniors and Seniors were granted the “freedom of choice” for the next two years.[xiv]

Superintendent Ott resigned in August 1966, after a year, to accept the superintendent’s position at the Akron Public School, in Ohio.  The school board appointed John W. Ambrose, as acting superintendent, on September 10, 1966, until the merger was finalized with the county school system.[xv]

John W. Ambrose, 1966   <Ambrose>

County Schools:

In December 1948, Col. D. Y. Dunn resigned as county superintendent, after 20 years heading the school system.[xvi]  In 1949, Noah Turpen became the superintendent to replace Dunn.

In June 1950, the county board approved a budget for the coming school year of $1,536,265.[xvii]  In 1951, the voters of Fayette County approved a special building tax to meet the expanding enrollment of the county schools.  The tax was $0.32 per $100 assessed value, for twenty years.  The first year the special tax raised $229,880.30 on assessed values in the county of $72,000,000.  Superintendent Turpin stated that the “tax should enable the school board to meet building needs to the fall of 1959.”  In 1950-51 and 1951-52, the county school’s enrollment was 6,214 and 6,737[3] pupils, respectively, an 8.5 percent increase in one year.  The projected enrollment for 1956 was 9,381 (a 51 percent increase), while the projected enrollment for 1965 was 17,500 pupils (a 181 percent).

With the funds from the special building tax, the county elementary schools were expanded with the opening in 1954 of the Clays Mill and Yates, in 1956 of the Glendover, in 1957 of the Leestown and in 1958 of the James Lane Allen and Mary Todd Elementary Schools.  During 1958, Bryan Station High School was opened.  During 1954, Lafayette High School was extensively remodeled and a junior high school established on the grounds.

During 1956, the county schools failed in an attempt to extend the special building tax, from 1971 to 1976.  During the school year of 1956-57, the county school experienced significant overcrowding.  The board was force to established classrooms in a number of churches in Fayette County.  The school system housed four classes from Bryan Station Junior High at Grace Baptist, three classes from Linlee at First Methodist, one classes from Yates at Epworth Methodist, two classes from Yates at Grace Baptist, one classes from Kenwick at Westminster Presbyterian and one class from Briar Hill at Westminster Presbyterian.  In addition, South Limestone School was opened with classes held at Porter Memorial (seven classes), Good Shepherd Episcopal (three classes), First Christian (two classes) and Centenary Methodist (two classes).  During 1959 and 1960, voters again failed to approve proposed tax increases.

During July 1957, Dr. James B. Kincheloe was appointed superintendent of the Fayette County School system.  Kincheloe was previously the superintendent of the schools in Tucumcari, New Mexico.  Kincheloe served for four years, before resigning in January 1961.[xviii]

In July 1, 1961, the Fayette County Board of Education approved a budget of $5,054,954.35.[xix]

During April 1961, Dr. Guy S. Potts was selected to replace Kincheloe.  Potts was associated with the Chattanooga school system.  Potts would serve 27 years and retired in 1984.[xx]  Dr. Potts immediately organized a public vote on a tax increase of $0.50 per $100 assessed value, to fund the anticipated increases in enrollment.  In May 1962, the county voters finally approved the tax hike.[xxi]

During the 1960s, the county schools continued to experience expanding enrollment.  The county schools built the following elementary schools - in 1961 Meadowthorpe and Stonewall, in 1962 Cardinal Valley and Tates Creek, in 1963 Deep Springs, in 1964 Garden Springs and Dixie Elementary Schools.  In addition, during 1963, 1964 and 1966 the Jessie Clark, Beaumont and Tates Creek and Southern, respectively, Junior High Schools were opened.  In 1965, the county school system also opened the Tates Creek High School.

In 1967, the county schools housed over 700 elementary students in temporary classes in local churches.  In addition, in May 1968, the schools opened another 10 temporary mobile classrooms to meet the expanding enrollment.  Then during September 1968, the board purchased an additional five mobile classrooms each for Tates Creek and Ashland Elementary Schools.[xxii]


[1] There was no organized protests over her enrollment, however, the white students ignored her.  Her father’s construction business was also boycotted by some white parents.  In 1957, she graduated as valedictorian from Douglas Highs School.

[2] Lynem was born in Lexington during 1915 and was a retired Major of the US Army.  After retiring from the army, he returned to Lexington and managed P. K. Sykes winning campaign for the city council.  He was killed in an auto accident in 1966.  He was replaced on the school board by the Rev. H. H. Green.

[3] included 360 black students housed in the old Russell School.


[i] Lexington Herald, June 30, 1950, page 1, column 4 and March 15, 1951, page 1, column 1-2.

[ii] Lexington Leader, April 8, 1952, page 1, column 1-3, June 19, 1952, page 1, columns 2-3, June 24, 1953, page 6, column 3, June 26, 1952, page 6, column 1, July 2, 1952, page 2, column 4, July 17, 1952, page 8, columns 6-7 and March 25, 1953, page 19, columns 3-5.

[iii] Lexington Leader, February 9, 1952, page 10, columns 2-3.

[iv] Lexington Leader, July 24, 1952, page 20, columns 3-5.

[v] Lexington Leader, September 11, 1952, page 8, columns 3-4.

[vi] Lexington Herald, January 29, 1960, page 1, column 6, November 7, 1960, page 1, column 4, February 1, 1961, page 1, column 3, April 7, 1961, page 21, column 1, December 29, 1961, page 1, column 8, January 31, 1962, page 1, column 1, February 28, 1962, page 15, column 6 and January 31, 1964, page 1, column 2.

[vii] Lexington Herald-Leader, January 12, 1964, page B-1, columns 1-6.

[viii] Lexington Herald, July 16, 1965, page 1, column 1-2 and February 23, 1966, page 1, column 1.

[ix] Coleman, A. Lee, “Desegregation of Public Schools in Kentucky - One Year Afterwards,” The Journal of Negro Education, Volume 24, Number 3, (Summer, 1955), page 248.

[x] Lexington Herald, June 7, 1955, page 1, column 7.

[xi] Lexington Herald, July 27, 1966, page 1, column 6.

[xii] Lexington Herald, May 7, 1966, page 1, columns 5-7.

[xiii] Lexington Herald, July 27, 1966, page 1, column 3.

[xiv] Lexington Herald, May 7, 1966, page 1, columns 5-7.

[xv] Lexington Herald, July 28, 1965, page 1, column 7, August 13, 1966, page 1, column 6 and September 8, 1966, page 1, column 1-2.

[xvi] Lexington Herald, December 17, 1948, page 1, column 8.

[xvii] Lexington Herald, July 6, 1950, page 1, column 2.

[xviii] Lexington Herald, July 9, 1957, page 1, column 7 and January 10, 1961, page 1, column 5.

[xix] Lexington Herald, July 1, 1961, page 1, column 6.

[xx] Lexington Herald, April 20, 1961, page 1, column 5.

[xxi] Lexington Herald, March 20, 1962, page 1, column 6, March 27, 1962, page 1, column 1, April 27, 1962, page 1, column 6, May 1, 1962, page 1, column 1 and May 30, 1962, page 1, column 6.

[xxii] Lexington Herald, April 2, 1968, page 1, column 1, May 21, 1968, page 1, column 7 and September 17, 1968, page 1, column 5.

William M. Ambrose, Bluegrass Schools, Limestone Press, Lexington, 2012.

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